After a dominant career, Northwestern gave senior Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah a final game to remember at Welsh-Ryan, defeating Indiana 69-49 in a commanding performance on senior night.
Before the match began, Northwestern honored Kunaiyi-Akpanah with a video presentation and pre-game ceremony featuring head coach Joe McKeown, University President Morton Shapiro, and Athletic Director Jim Phillips.
Northwestern (16-12, 9-8 B1G) started off strong against the Hoosiers (18-11, 7-10, B1G), with Kunaiyi-Akpanah (11 PTS, 11 REB) and Lindsey Pulliam (24 PTS) leading the offensive charge. Both players knew exactly where the ball needed to go, and the ‘Cats had great passing circulation around the court.
Northwestern finished the first quarter up 17-10 but started slowly to begin the second quarter; Indiana put up nine points while the ‘Cats only scored five in the first four minutes.
The Wildcats were patient getting to the hoop and played aggressive defense against the Hoosiers. Pulliam remained the lead player on offense, making almost all of her attempted shots while getting back on defense at the right time. The sophomore dominated senior night, finishing with 24 points on 9-18 shooting, and soon the Hoosiers doubled up their defense on her.
With just 3:30 left in the second quarter, the Hoosiers tied the match 24-24, but Pulliam immediately scored a layup to put the Wildcats up again. She was the highest scorer of the first half with 17 points. The ‘Cats led at halftime 30-28, but they slowed down in the second quarter after allowing 18 points while only scoring 13.
The ‘Cats returned aggressively in the third quarter; in the first six minutes after half, the ‘Cats scored 14 points and allowed only two from the Hoosiers as the ‘Cats maintained a strong defensive performance. The Hoosiers seemingly lost energy and lagged throughout the quarter, and the ‘Cats led 52-36 at the end.
The fourth quarter was a slow end to the game, with both teams patiently moving the ball around before settling near the post and in the paint. Even though Kunaiyi-Akpanah played less than usual and was subbed out with a little over three minutes left due to foul trouble, she left as the ‘Cats’ second lead-scorer with 11 points. Pulliam’s solid performance helped close out the victory, leading Northwestern to win 69-49.
Northwestern next plays against Iowa (22-6, 13-4 B1G) on Mar. 3 at Iowa City in the first contest between the two teams. With Iowa’s second-place conference standing in mind, the game will greatly challenge the ‘Cats, as they fight for a postseason slot.